The Optimists


How were 50,000 Bulgarian Jews saved from the Holocaust despite the intense efforts of their government to deport them? The Optimists tells the dramatic story of how people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions at the eleventh hour, secured the safety of their Jewish neighbors.

 “A rare documentary … compact and elegant.”  
– New York Times

“Uplifting documentary . . . fascinating story.”
– TV Guide

“A miraculous sharp movie.”
– Chicago Tribune

“Individuals triumph over odds in inspiring ʻOptimistsʼ.”
– Chicago Sun Times

“Potent and gripping
– Boston Globe

On March 10th, the Jews of Plovdiv were brought to the former Jewish schoolyard. In other towns they were rounded up and gathered to await transport. They waited all day. And then, at the end of that day, they were simply sent home.

Forty nine thousand Jews survived, because Bulgarian friends found ways to protect them from their would-be murderers, in defiance of their Nazi-allied government. The Optimists tells their story.

The purpose of this documentary project has been to explore how these different ethnic and religious groups came to live together in peace in Bulgaria during the Holocaust, and to learn how the lessons learned can be applied today.

In Bulgaria, both organized efforts and individuals made a difference. The Bulgarian Parliament, Church, intellectuals, trade unions, professional guilds, and the Jewish community all helped defeat the Nazis’ plans for mass deportations. And the many individuals who helped left a legacy of rescue stories.